NEWARK– Have you ever complained about sweaty hands? An uncomfortable desk? Trouble getting cookie dough out of a scoop?
These common problems were among those tackled by Worcester Technical High School students completing their capstone projects this week. Their inventions were reviewed by a panel of judges from the community as well as by their fellow students.
“Working on a capstone lets students build independence, self-reliance and accountability while working on solving real world issues,” said Valerie Zienty, a pre-engineering teacher at Worcester Tech. “It prepares students to take initiative and complete a project they can be proud of.”
Worcester Tech seniors shared the projects they spent the past semester working on to a crowd of teachers, parents and eighth-graders from other county schools Tuesday. A panel of engineers, entrepreneurs, educators and scientists offered feedback after each presentation.
Caroline Bloxom, principal of Worcester Tech, told the eighth-graders in the crowd the projects they were seeing this week represented just a tiny bit of what went on at the school.
“This is their culminating capstone project where they get to be inventors,” she said. “You can see engineering is a great program to be in even if you don’t want to be an engineer because it’s all about problem solving and critical thinking.”
Engineering students Carrie Dortenzo, Marley Rakow and Samantha Ewancio shared their idea for a new cookie dough scoop. Coated in silicone, it prevents cookie dough from sticking to the scoop, meaning cookies come out in a uniform size.
“You will have evenly-sized cookies every time guaranteed,” Rakow said.
Seniors Jakob Lemay, Evan Haas and Jerry Kiesewetter told the audience their invention was the Dry-Writer. They were looking to solve an everyday problem.
“Many people have sweaty hands while writing,” Lemay said.
Kiesewetter pointed out that their invention, a partial glove to be worn while writing, would keep sweat from soaking into the paper a person was writing on. He said 74 percent of the people they’d surveyed said they’d be willing to buy a product to deal with sweaty hands.
“They really see it as a hindrance,” Lemay said.
When the judges asked whether people were even using paper and pencil anymore in this age of high-tech gadgets, the students argued that they were.
“We’re writing on and off eight hours a day,” Lemay said. “Students are still doing a fair amount of handwriting.”
Dishon Wise and Khalid Elhag also came up with an invention designed to make life in the classroom easier. They told judges the Triple T—The Transforming Table—was a table that could be adjusted to any height, making it equally comfortable for students of any size.
“We created a table that adjusts to different people,” Elhag said.
Wise said in coming up with an invention she and Elhag had discovered the amount of research that goes into creating a product.
“You can’t just jump in,” she said. “You have to look at the problem and see what’s already been made.”
Zienty said the students presenting their capstone projects made up the first group she’d had all the way from ninth-grade through 12th grade.
“They really grew in front of me,” she said.
The final projects, she said, were similar to the sort of tasks students would be asked to perform in college and served to help prepare them.
“Moreover, students are able to demonstrate technology skills and academic proficiency that they gained in four years in my program,” she said.